At the start of the academic year I turned up at the University of Sydney Camperdown/Darlington Campus carrying two corflutes. Printed on them were the phrases, “I’m trans and proud to be a Conservative”, “There are only two genders”, “Defend freedom of speech”, and “Political correctness is un-Australian”. I nervously held them in full display as I walked around the campus.
Indeed, it was busy and crowded O-Week, and I just wanted to let the new (and old) students know that it’s okay to think for yourself, and have your own opinion. After all, don’t we go to uni to learn to think critically? Of course, it’s unfortunate that they would also have to bear in mind that there are potential consequences for freely expressing contrarian speech, thanks to today’s political climate.
I experienced some of these consequences as I walked around in silent protest. Reading about the hostile political climate on campus in Western countries is one thing, but to experience the hostility first hand. I copped the following verbal abuses, amongst others:
“I don’t care that you’re trans, you’re transphobic”.
“Get the @#$% off campus”.
“Your opinions suck, and you’re an asshole”.
It never occurred to me that I’m transphobic for believing that there are only two genders, even though I’m a transsexual woman myself. Who would have thought? And who would have thought that non-postmodernist views of gender are not welcome at a university?
That wasn’t the worst part. A member of the USYD Queer Action Collective (I believe that was where she came from based on circumstantial evidence) walked up to me from behind and successfully snatched my “I’m trans and proud to be a Conservative, There are only two genders” corflute. As I chased her to retrieve my stolen private property, a brave young man came to my defence. He retrieved my corflute from her without breaking the law, then returned the stolen item to me. No, that wasn’t the worst part.
The worst part was when a lady in a wheelchair approached me and started following me around. I am mindful that people with disabilities, where they’re independent, are equal to me and other people, and I don’t like to think otherwise. But in this case, I was initially thinking that if she was anything like the previous thief, she would try to wrestle my corflutes off me, but I would be the one with the physical advantage, and that I could tower over her if I wanted to.
It became obvious that it was the right decision on my part to not engage with her. In hindsight, it was clear that she wouldn’t be willing to be reasoned with, let alone engage in a productive conversation. But I thought the least I could do was walk at her pace. As she followed me around, she claimed to be of a non-binary gender, and that she can’t help who she is. I avoid using that type of argument when engaging with people who aren’t accepting of me as a transwoman, and for good reason. I did consider bringing up an opinion piece of mine in The Spectator Australia, but I decided that would have been cruel, irrespective of the merits of the concerns I have about transtrending.
Unsatisfied with my silence, she then talked about her non-binary friends who’ve completed suicide. In my entire life, I don’t think I’ve ever brought up trans suicide rates in trying to engage with people who aren’t accepting of me as a transwoman. She then proceeded to make legal threats, alleging that the public display of my corflutes was unlawful under the Sex Discrimination Act. It couldn’t get any worse than this, could it?
In a final act of incivility, she grabbed my trans/gender corflute and didn’t let go for a good few minutes. Being mindful of my physical advantage, I was gentle in pulling the corflute away from her and reminded her that private property should be respected at all times. At no point did I feel the need to make any sort of physical contact with her, nor did it get so bad that she was displaced from her wheelchair. I restrained my physical advantage successfully I thought.
I can’t bring myself to using they/them as gender pronouns to reference this particular individual. They/them have always been plural pronouns, not singular (gender) pronouns. There are only two genders, and transtrending delegitimises gender dysphoria. As such, I’m inclined to not apologise for this position I’m taking. Indeed, I’ve been able to show a great amount of tolerance for people who misgender me using he/him pronouns.
Thankfully, that was the last confrontation I faced during my time on campus that day. Another apparent member of the USYD Queer Action Collective told me to leave campus in the rudest manner possible, albeit behind a computer screen. Funny that, because the security guards on campus didn’t seem to mind what I was doing.
At certain points during the day, I was losing heart. I was sickened by the attempts to suppress speech; it was not a good feeling. But I don’t regret what I did, and will certainly be back to do it all again in the same non-violent fashion. Freedom of speech is one of the most sacrosanct of human rights, and university should always be a place for civilised and respectful debate (including silent protest).
It is hardly surprising that two days later, the University of Sydney Women’s Collective crowd tried to bully the pro-life LifeChoice stall into submission. I spoke to the stallholders when I was on campus, they’re lovely people!
All in all, I hope that during my time on campus, I at least got one student thinking about his/her campus freedoms (or lack thereof). If I achieved that at the very least, then it was worth my time coming out to one of the most politically-hostile (towards anyone who isn’t Left or postmodernist) campuses in Australia.
This article first appeared on the Spectator Australia and was reprinted with permission.